Agroscope FAL Reckenholz, Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, Zurich

Eco-meadows maintain species richness in the Alps

In municipalities of the Swiss Alpine regions the share of ecological compensation areas (ECAs) ranges from 2 % to over 40 % of the used agricultural area. How do climatic, agronomic, or socio-economic conditions explain these variations and how does the amount of ECAs influence the success of the ecological compensation programme? As part of the National research project 48 «Landscapes and Habitats of the Alps» we conducted a spatially comprehensive survey. We found that the share of ECAs depended mostly on altitude. The effectiveness of the ecological compensation programme however does not depend on the amount of ECAs in municipalities. At lower elevations of the mountain regions ECAs are probably declared at marginal sites and thus show a contrasting botanical composition. At higher elevations, the direct payments for managing ECAs allow an extensive management at the landscape scale. In these municipalities the agri-environmental scheme is probably preventing both management intensification and abandonment.

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